Why Camp David II Failed: a Negotiation Theory Perspective

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  • Why Camp David II Failed: a Negotiation Theory Perspective

    Rochelle-Leigh (Shelley) Rosenberg

    Negotiation Final Paper

    Working Group B

    May 9th

    , 2011

    I dont think they will ever reinvent the wheel. And the difference between this

    moment until the moment of reaching an agreement will be how many names--

    Palestinians and Israelis--will be added to the lists of death and agony. At the end

    of the day, there will be peace.--Saeb Erekat

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    On July 24, 2000, after fourteen straight days of negotiations at the Camp David II

    presidential retreat, President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian

    Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat returned to their respective countries unable to reach a

    deal. Despite the summits failure to produce a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    in accordance with the 1993 Oslo Agreements, Arafat requested another meeting. Nearly five

    months later, the parties reconvened at the White House on December 19, 2000, and following

    separate meetings with both parties, Clinton offered his last proposal. Barak, who had wagered

    his political career on the potential deal, endorsed it. Arafat made no counteroffer and gave no

    explanation. Instead, he simply walked away.

    Arafats exit shocked the world: Arafats decision to walk away from these offers,

    effectively ending the Oslo peace process and inflaming the burgeoning second intifada . . .

    stunned the U.S. and Israeli leaders.1 Shortly after, in his New York Times column Foreign

    Affairs; Yasir Arafats Moment, Thomas Friedman explained to the American public that

    Arafat played rope-a-dope. He came with no compromise ideas of his own on Jerusalem. He

    simply absorbed Mr. Barak's proposals and repeated Palestinian mantras about recovering all of

    East Jerusalem.2 Even Arab leaders admitted that they were caught off guard when Arafat cut

    off negotiations.3 In his autobiography, MY LIFE, Clinton reflected on an exchange he had with

    Arafat upon his abrupt departure. You are a great man, Arafat told Clinton after Camp David

    II. Clinton responded, I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one.4

    This paper examines the failure of Camp David II from a negotiation perspective. For the

    1 Russell Korobkin & Jonathan Zasloff, Roadblocks to the Roadmap: A Negotiation Theory Perspective on the

    Israeli-Palestinian Conflict After Yasser Arafat, 30 YALE J. INTL L. 1, 24 (2005). 2 Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs; Yasir Arafats moment, N.Y. TIMES, July 28, 2000, www.nytimes.

    com/2000/07/28/opinion/foreign-affairs-yasir-arafat-s-moment.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm. 3 Elsa Walsh, The Prince: How the Saudi Ambassador Became Washingtons Indispensable Operator, NEW

    YORKER, Mar. 24, 2003, at 48. 4 BILL CLINTON, MY LIFE 633 (Knopf Publishing Group, 2004).


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    purposes of this paper, Barak and Arafat represent the nations of Israel and Palestine,

    theoretically unified entities. It should also be noted that due to the complexity of the Israeli-

    Palestinian conflict, this paper takes a simplistic view of the hypothetical unified parties primary

    interests at a single point in time. It begins with a sketch of each partys primary interest. It then

    evaluates why the Clinton proposal did not offer a Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA).5 The

    paper concludes with suggestions for use in future negotiations between the Israelis and

    Palestinians in the hope that one day a final settlement will be reached.

    II. The Offer

    At the outset, it is critical to note that Clintons offer was never written down.6

    Nonetheless, Ambassador Dennis Ross, the chief US negotiator, detailed the proposal in his

    book, THE MISSING PEACE. According to his account, Clinton offered a plan that would primarily

    have given the Palestinians: 1) over 90% of the West Bank, and complete control over the Gaza

    Strip with a land-link connecting the two, 2) Palestinian control over the Muslim holy sites on

    Jerusalems Temple Mount, and 3) significant financial compensation to Palestinian refugees.7

    Variations to this skeletal offer were also on the table. For example, Clinton allegedly offered

    Arafat 96% of the West Bank and 1% of Israel proper, or 94% of the West Bank and 3% of

    Israel proper.8

    Ultimately, there simply [was] no specific version of a land-for-peace agreement that

    both Israel and the Palestinians would prefer to continued warfare.9 To this day, dozens of

    theories circulate trying to make sense of why Arafat walked away. Middle East scholars,

    5 ROBERT H. MNOOKIN, SCOTT R. PEPPET, & ANDREW S. TULUMELLO, BEYOND WINNING: NEGOTIATING TO CREATE VALUE IN DEALS AND DISPUTES 19 (Library of Congress-Cataloging-in-Publication-Data, 2000). 6 David Shyovitz, Camp David 2000, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/cd2000art.html (last visited


    Straus and Giroux, 2004). 8 Shyovitz, Supra note 6.

    9 Korobkin, supra note 1, at 11 .


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    diplomats, and politicians alike remain confounded, suggesting anything from Arafats

    psychological inability to let go of the conflict to the influence of a fractured Palestinian society.

    Yet, analyzing Camp David II through a negotiation framework provides a straightforward

    answer: no ZOPA existed between the two parties. Whether it contains many possible deals or

    just a single option, a ZOPA within which the parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement

    is a necessary condition to reaching an agreement. Without a ZOPA, any deal will be intolerable

    for at least one party. In this case, the Palestinians interests were outside of the Clinton proposal.

    Arafat preferred his Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)10

    : the nation of

    Palestine, as a hypothetical single entity, was better off living with the status quo than agreeing

    to the concessions implicit in a land-for-peace agreement, and the actions of Palestines leader

    reflected this calculation.11

    While the Israelis allegedly backed Clintons Camp David II

    proposal, any alternative deal that Clinton would have proposed to meet the Palestinians

    interests would no longer be feasible vis--vis Israeli interests.

    III. The Palestinians Primary Interest

    Practically every day in the Western world, newspapers flash headlines about Palestinians

    living in squalor and subjected to Israeli brutality. Thus, at first glance, it is difficult to

    understand why Arafat preferred this BATNAconditions of intense poverty and constant

    warfare with the most powerful military in the Middle Eastto Clintons proposal and a

    resultant Palestinian state. Acceptance of the proposal would have immediately improved

    Palestinian living conditions. However, this narrow view overlooks the Palestinians key interest.

    The Palestinians primary interest was to acquire the right of return (haq al-awda).12

    With the establishment of Israel in 1948, Arab countries unleashed their anger on Jews living in


    Id. at 20. 11

    Id. at 10. 12

    Rashid I. Khalidi, Observations on the Right of Return, 21 J. OF PALESTINE STUDIES 29, 29 (1992).

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    the Middle East. In some cases, Jews were forcefully expelled, while others left because their

    lives were no longer sustainable in Arab dominated countries. Although the exact numbers,

    timeline, and reasons for leaving are disputed, approximately 580,000 Jews lived in Arab lands

    in 1945, 560,000 of whom immigrated to Israel in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

    Israelis consider this war a miracle, while the Palestinians refer to it as the catastrophe (al-


    Again, while the statistics, timeline, and reasons for leaving are widely disputed, the

    United Nations suggests that between 1947 and 1949, 656,000 Arab inhabitants of Mandatory

    Palestine (now Israel) were either forced to leave or fled.14

    Upon entrance to Israel, Jews are

    granted Israeli citizenship15.

    Arab countries, however, set up refugee camps for Palestinian

    refugees in anticipation of a re-conquest of Mandatory Palestine that never came to pass. 16


    the Six Day War in 1967, Arab countries experienced an additional influx of 300,000


    Today, there are approximately 4.8 million registered Palestinian refugees.18

    Over time, the Palestinian longing to return has strengthened: what began as a displaced

    population of three quarters of a million people in 1949 has now reached more than six million

    [people], most of who are consumed with the objective of returning to their homeland.19


    fact that an official Palestinian state has never existed is irrelevant to the Palestinians. They view

    themselves as victims who have been denied the self-determination that their Arab brethren were

    granted only to serve as a political pawn. All other Palestinian interests pale in comparison to the



    Pennsylvania Press 2002). 14

    Charles k. Rowley & Jennis Taylor, The Israel and Palestine Settlement Problem, 1948-2005: An Analytical

    History, 128 P. CHOICE 77, 87 (2006). 15

    Law of Return 5710-1950, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/

    1950_1959/Law%20of%20Return%205710-1950, last visited April 15. 16

    Rowley, supra note 14, at 87. 17

    Id. 18

    U.N. Palestine Refugees, Who are Palestinian Refugees?, http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=86 (last visited

    Apr. 12). 19

    Rowley, supra note 14, at 83 (emphasis added).


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    right of return: as far as the Palestinians are concerned, the wrong done to them can only be

    righted, and the disasters ended, through a return to the homeland.20

    IV. The Israelis Primary Interest

    Israels most fundamental interest was to preserve its Jewish character. In just sixty years,

    the state of Israel has fought seven wars, and in the interim periods, Israel has experienced

    violent terrorist attacks. Palestinians perpetrated many of these bus bombings, attacks on Israeli

    soldiers, and other similar travesties that were commonplace in Israeli society at the time of

    Camp David II. While Barak clearly had an interest in establishing peace and security in Israel,

    and in improving its press coverage and public relations throughout the world,21


    Israels Jewish identity trumped other interests. Founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Israel

    is a Jewish statehome to the Jewish people. Barak jumped on the opportunity to accept the

    Clinton proposal because it met his key interest, dominating the Israeli BATNA of perpetual


    V. Why the Clinton Proposal did not provide a ZOPA

    Arab citizens of Israel will overwhelm the Jewish population unless Jewish procreation

    rates increase. In its early years and even lasting until the fall of the Soviet Union, Israel

    experienced an ingathering of the exiles in the form of various population waves (Aliyahs),

    where Jews from the Diaspora returned to their homeland. Currently, Israel is home to 42.5% of

    world Jewry. The US follows with 39.3%.22

    Unless unprecedented numbers of American Jews

    decide to make Aliyah and establish citizenship and a home in Israel, Israel will not see another

    population influx like those it experienced in its early years. Additionally, not all Arab residents


    Khalidi supra note 12 at 30. 21

    Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, The Last Negotiation, How to End the Middle East Peace Process, 81:3

    FOREIGN AFFAIRS 10, 13 (2002). 22

    The Jewish Population of the World, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/ jewpop.html (last

    visited Apr. 11, 2011).


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    of Mandatory Palestine fled in 1948. Today, roughly 20% of Israels population (1.57 million)

    consists of Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship.23

    On average, compared to their Arab

    counterparts, Israelis demonstrate a low procreation rate. The annual rate of Israelis natural

    increase is 2.5% while Palestinians is 3.5%.24

    A. Palestinian perspective

    Palestinian leaders have consistently demanded the right of return for Palestinian

    refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside of Israel, as a precondition for a

    peace deal.25

    At this time, Palestinians will only accept a settlement proposal that resolves the

    Palestinian refugee situation in some way. From a Western perspective, this is difficult to

    understand because the Palestinian demand appears impracticable. Additionally, abandoning this

    demand would not leave the Palestinians perceptibly worse off because Palestinians currently

    lack the ability to return to their homes and have no realistic chance of achieving the ability to

    return through the force of arms. Yet accepting a peace deal would vastly improve Palestinian

    welfare in other regards, including but not limited to health, education, and socioeconomic

    status. Therefore, conceding the right of return seems far superior to the Palestinian BATNA.

    Still, this conclusion underestimates the legitimate Palestinian emotion of homelessnessa

    longing to return to their ancestral homes akin to the Jewish peoples yearning to return to Israel

    for 2000 years. Since the establishment of Israel, the idea of return has been central to the

    Palestinian national narrative of struggle against overwhelming odds, of expulsion from their

    ancestral homeland, of dispersion, and of national reconstruction.26

    This hunger to return has


    Population, Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, http://www.cbs.gov.il/www/yarhon/b1_e.htm (last visited Apr. 10,

    2011). 24

    Rowley, supra note 13, at 87. 25

    Justus R. Weiner, The Palestinian Refugees Right to Return and the Peace Process, 20 B.C. INTL & COMP.

    L. REV. 1, 22-23 (1997). 26

    Khalidi supra note 12.


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    been passed down even to the youngest generation of Palestinians, many of whom have never set

    foot in Israel proper. A Palestinian Camp David II representative referenced the refugee issue as

    the moment of truth, bemoaning the Israeli position as the greatest failure of the summit.27

    Although reaching a peace deal at Camp David II would have improved Palestinian life

    in the immediate future, the Palestinian people might have had a long-term interest in holding

    out. Taking demographics and the Palestinian birthrate into account, the Palestinians could

    achieve their goal of regaining control of Israel proper without the right of return. Projections of

    when this will occur are disputed, but the ultimate result is undeniable. Israeli leaders overt

    concern about this demographic threat evinces that it is a realistic possibility.28

    Under these

    circumstances, it was rational for Arafat to sacrifice his peoples present welfare to meet their

    collective interests in the future. If Arafat were to have reached an agreement at Camp David II,

    he would have recognized the establishment and continuing existence of the Jewish state. An

    agreement would also have likely resulted in Palestinian emigration from Israel, making a natural

    re-conquest unlikely. Given that Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote and currently 14 of

    120 members of the Israeli parliament are Arab citizens, it is eminently reasonable to think that

    the Palestinians will control the electoral system with the passage of time. 29

    When viewed through a negotiation apparatus, it becomes clear that Arafats decision to

    walk away was neither an accident nor an aberration. But most analyses of Arafats decision fail

    to take into account, or even consider, such a perspective. For example, Friedmans infamous

    article challenged Arafat:

    What should Mr. Arafat have said? He should have told Mr. Barak that his ideas for


    Akram Hanieh, The Camp David Papers, J. PALESTINE STUD. 75, 82 (2001). 28 Gideon Alon & Aluf Benn, Netanyahu: Israels Arabs are the Real Demographic Threat, HAARETZ, Dec. 18, 03, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/netanyahu-israel-s-arabs-are-the-real-demographic-threat-1.109045. 29

    Current Knesset Members: Knesset Members by Parliamentary Group, The Knesset, http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng

    /MKIndex_Current_eng.asp?view=1 (last visited Apr. 29, 2011).


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    granting Palestinians an administrative presence in East Jerusalem, autonomous control

    over the Arab neighborhoods there and religious control over the Temple Mount were a

    huge leap forward for an Israeli leader. But, he should have added, they didn't go far

    enough . . ..30

    Friedman was not analyzing the failure at Camp David II through a negotiation framework. By

    stating that they didnt go far enough, he is essentially saying that there was no ZOPA. It is

    possible that Arafat preferred his BATNA to Clintons final proposal because the Palestinians

    might believe that the psychological cost of renouncing the right of return would be greater than

    the physical and economic deprivations that they suffer under Israeli occupation.31

    It is also

    equally possible that Arafat preferred his BATNA because he perceived it as a short-term

    forfeiture of the Palestinian interest, in exchange for long-term fulfillment of Palestinian

    interests. After all, [i]f, as Zionists claim, the Jews of the earth nourished a dream of a

    reconstituted Israel in Palestine through eighteen hundred years, is it not unrealistic to believe

    that Palestinian Arabs would hope for a return to their own land just beyond a river bank or just

    across an imaginary line?32

    B. Israeli Perspective

    Israels primary interest, retaining its Jewish character, is in direct opposition to the

    Palestinians primary interest (the right of return). If all Palestinians whose ancestors lived in

    what is now Israel were given a right of return, and in fact returned, they would become the

    majority and the Jews would become the minority in Israel. But as established above, regardless

    of whether or not the Palestinians are granted this right of return, this Israeli nightmare will

    eventually ensue. Viewed in this light, Israels BATNA looks even worse. This reality makes the

    Israeli interest much stronger, and much more time sensitive. Achieving a peace deal with the


    Friedman, supra note 6 (emphasis added). 31

    Korobkin, supra note 2, at 14. 32


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    Palestinians would solidify Israels existence in the Middle East. With the Palestinian emigration

    outside of Israel that would likely result, eventual Palestinian control of the polls would no

    longer exist as an issue, or at least become less probable. In this light, Arafats decision to walk

    away appears more attractive and rational.

    VI. What could increase the likelihood of developing a ZOPA, making it feasible to reach a

    resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    In concrete terms, from the negotiators standpoint, the existence of a ZOPA depends on

    the quality of his/her BATNA relative to the proposals quality. It follows that if no ZOPA

    exists, one might evolve if the parties respective BATNAs are worsened, or if the proposal

    becomes more attractive.

    Warring countries have immense power to worsen their enemys BATNA. In the Middle

    East, this precept could also explain the past sixty-three years of continual warfare between the

    Israelis and Palestinians. Specifically, [o]ne plausible explanation for . . . bloodshed in the Holy

    Land is that each side is engaged in a constant effort to convince the other that its BATNA is

    worsein fact, much worsethan previously believed.33

    It is plausible that the Palestinians

    instigated the first and second intifadas for precisely this reason. Arafat might have believed that

    if the Israelis suffered enough, their BATNA would decline. Arafat might have further

    determined that with time, the Israeli BATNA will decline so much that Israel will be coerced to

    support a less attractive peace deal than that offered at Camp David II or even that the

    Palestinians will have no need for a peace agreement. It is equally plausible that Israeli

    occupation and disproportionate responses to Palestinian violence are attempts to increase

    Palestinian suffering. From the Israeli point of view, making Palestinian life miserable increases

    the likelihood that the Palestinians will accept a peace deal on par with Camp David II.


    Korobkin, supra note 1, at 18.

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    Since Arafat walked away from Camp David II, the Israelis and Palestinians strategies

    to degrade each others BATNAS has worked, at least to some extent. Negotiation experts

    believe that from an interests-based outlook, a two-state solution would best serve the interests of

    the majority of both Palestinians and Israelis.34

    Partitioning the land between the Mediterranean

    and present day Jordan would provide a homeland for both peoples: the Israelis would maintain

    the Jewish character of their state and the Palestinians would no longer be refugees. At one time,

    neither Israelis nor Palestinians envisioned a two state solution, but it has now become the

    mainstream, favored resolution on both sides.35

    As a result of living amid constant warfare, this

    shift likely indicates both sides exhaustion and thus recognition of a very poor and arguably

    worsening BATNA. Professor William Zartmans theory of ripeness lends some insight here:

    there are points within a conflicts life cycle that are particularly ripe for agreement. A conflict

    may be ripe for resolution in the presence of a mutually hurting stalemate, or perceptions of

    increasingly painful conditions which will yield only further pain and ultimate catastrophe for

    the conflicting parties if they are left to fester.36

    In time, the Israelis BATNA will likely worsen while the Palestinians BATNA will

    likely improve. Projections regarding the changeability of each partys BATNA are inconsistent.

    On one hand, it is possible that as life in the region deteriorates, each side will continue to

    become more fatigued and more flexible; concessions on one side will lead to concessions on the

    other side. Alternatively, in his book COPING WITH INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT, Roger Fisher

    suggests that the application of the Golden Ruleone should treat others as one wishes to be


    Robert H. Mnookin, Ehud Eiran, & Sreemati Mitter, Barriers to Peace in the Middle East: Barriers to Progress at

    the Negotiation Table: Internal Conflicts Among Israelis and Among Palestinians, 6 NEV. L.J., 299, 299 (2005). 35

    Poll: Most Palestinians, Israelis favor two-state solution, HAARETZ, May 5, 2004, www.haaretz.com/news/poll-



    BARGAINING, AND MEDIATION 27 (Routledge, 2008).


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    treatedcould create an ever more hostile environment where each party will treat the other as

    badly as they perceive they have been treated.37

    Ultimately, however, [n]o nation is an island,

    and the BATNAs of both Israel and Palestine also depend on the actions of third parties. As the

    worlds sole superpower, the [US] enjoys substantial influence on both Israel and Palestine.38

    The US plays a critical role not only in influencing the parties BATNAs but also in

    making the proposal on the table more palatable for both sides. In fact, given the nature of this

    conflict, it appears that only a third party has any chance of making progress toward conflict


    In accordance with Zartmans ripeness theory, many believe that Camp David II

    was the ripe moment for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.40

    But others believe that the US

    still has the power to create another ripe moment.41

    Here, it is crucial that as the US attempts to

    make a deal more attractive to one party, its efforts do not simultaneously make the other party

    less inclined to agree. If the US tries to broaden the ZOPA so as to make it feasible for

    Palestinian agreement, the US does not want to meddle with the terms of the Camp David II

    proposal so much that it makes it impossible for Israel to make a deal (i.e. shift the bargaining

    range such that Israels BATNA becomes more attractive than any possible deal).

    The US has muscles it can flex. First and foremost, as exemplified in Camp David II, the

    US has succeeded in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiation table. The US,

    however, is not an impartial mediator. Rather, the US becomes a third party at the negotiation

    table with its own interests. For example, after Camp David II, the US was faulted for trying to

    appear as an honest broker to both sides when Clinton really favored Israel. And while Clinton




    Korobkin, supra note 1, at 21. 39

    LYONS, supra note 36 at 126. 40

    Jacob Bercovitch & S. Ayse Kadayifci, Conflict Management and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Importance of

    Capturing the Right Moment 9 Asia-Pacific Review 113, 123 (2002).

    41 LYONS, supra note 36 at 124.

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    allegedly pressured Barak to soften the Israeli position, his efforts as an ally were fruitless

    because they were not enough to create a ZOPA, leaving the Palestinians interests unfulfilled.

    There are many different ways in which an acceptable ZOPA could be established.

    Subsidies in the form of direct cash transfers to the Palestinians provide the most obvious

    mechanism to increase the respective parties satisfaction with a prospective proposal. The

    Palestinians have seen little on-the-ground support from their Arab brethren, but their cause is

    becoming increasingly popular throughout the larger world. If the Palestinians had the means to

    lead better lives, they might be less focused on their right of return. And there might be other

    ways to provide non-cash assistance to increase the appeal of a peace agreement. The US could

    make side agreements with one or both of the parties and induce other countries to do so as well

    to increase the attractiveness of peace. Amongst various possibilities, these agreements could

    include arms, law enforcement training, infrastructure (for health, education, medicine, etc), or

    food. The US has the unique ability to create a new ripe moment for peace. But in light of the

    recent volatility in the Middle East region, the US must navigate the situation carefully, making

    sure not to shift the parties BATNAs farther from a ZOPA.

    VII. Conclusion

    From a negotiation standpoint, Arafats decision to walk away seems less anomalous and

    more cogent. A decade after Camp David II, extensive proposals as to how to resolve the Israeli-

    Palestinian conflict continue to circulate. Potential resolutions range from a bi-national state to a

    three state solution to the expected declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN this fall. The

    success of such proposals remains to be seen. Looking forward, a negotiation framework is a

    useful lens for evaluating potential proposals because it will provide clarity and insight into what

    will actually work, since any proposal remains futile in the absence of a ZOPA.